Respect And Dignity

Helping your loved one maintain a sense of dignity can be one of the most difficult aspects of caregiving.

Take a minute to consider your special role as a caregiver. More than a professional caregiver, you know the person you care for. You know the whole person, his likes and dislikes, his individual strengths and weaknesses, and his wants and needs.

It’s easy to slip into a “protective” role when you care for someone else, especially a family member. But we need to remember that unless the person is experiencing some cognitive failure (brain damage because of a stroke, dementia, or other health problem), he still makes decisions about his life. Sometimes he may make decisions that you wouldn’t make, but it is his choice. This can be difficult for you as a caregiver; you will need to watch yourself and guard against overprotection.

Among the most important human needs is the desire for respect and dignity. That need doesn’t change when a person becomes ill or disabled. Indeed, it may grow even stronger.

There are many things you can do to make sure the person in your care receives the respect and dignity that is every person’s basic human right.

Respect His Privacy, Physically And Emotionally.

  • Close the door when you help him dress or use the bathroom.
  • Knock before opening a closed door.
  • Don’t discuss confidential information with other people, even family members, without his permission.

Respect His Right To Make Choices.

  • By making choices we have a sense of control over our life. Let him decide what and when to eat, for example, if he is able.
  • If he has cognitive problems, offer choices of what to eat, when to eat, what to wear. If he insists on wearing the same shirt every day, use a protective towel when he eats, and wash clothes in the evening.
  • If a choice seems silly or unimportant to you, try to see why it may be important to him.
  • If he refuses to take medication or makes other choices that would be dangerous, try to negotiate possible solutions. Offer pills with a favorite snack (if the prescription allows), agree to give baths only as often as absolutely necessary, arrange for someone to take walks with him if he is unsafe by himself.

Treat Him With Dignity.

  • Listen to his concerns.
  • Ask for his opinions and let him know they are important to you.
  • Involve him in as many decisions as possible.
  • Include him in the conversation. Don’t talk about him as though he’s not there.
  • Speak to him as an adult, even if you’re not sure how much he understands.

Originally written and published by the Aging and Adult Services Administration Department of Social and Health Services, State of Washington. Reprinted with permission.

© Washington State Department of Social and Health Services

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